The Bridge, Series 2, BBC Four / Hinterland, BBC One Wales | TV reviews, news & interviews
The Bridge, Series 2, BBC Four / Hinterland, BBC One Wales
Viking invasion continues with a second serving of Danish-Swedish crime. Plus murder in Wales
Why has Nordic noir been such an addictive novelty? Yes the plots are great, the locations moodily cool, the flat dialogue enigmatic. But in the end it’s all about gender. The detective who is a genius at work but clueless at life – we’ve seen it all before in a suit and tie and a battered mac. What’s different in equal-opportunity Scandinavia is that the dysfunctional crimebusters are beautiful bug-eyed Valkyries. Up north it’s the blokes who are the sidekicks.
First there was Sara Lund in The Killing. However much work she needed to do on her empathy skills, Saga Norén of the Malmö police department takes it to the next level. As the Danish-Swedish co-production The Bridge (****) returns, Saga is devouring manuals for tips on how to relate to a new live-in boyfriend, and teaching herself to laugh at others’ jokes – revealing a lovely smile of which it would be nice to see more.
We have all learned to genuflect at the altar of Nordic noir in recent years
Saga’s inability to lie played a key role in the climactic showdown last time round. She and her burly Copenhagen colleague Martin Rohde foiled a plot by a psychopath to blow up the eponymous thoroughfare which links Denmark and Sweden across the Øresund strait, but at great personal cost to Martin, whose son was murdered and who, exiled from the family home to a hotel, is still haunted by visions of the perpetrator. But he perks up no end when Saga walks back into his office and asks to buddy up again. For all Martin’s lingering anger management issues, it seems working in homicide is way better than therapy.
At the opening of series two the bridge was once more under threat, this time when an unmanned ship – Saga was most insistent that it was too long to be a boat - crashed into one of the struts. Upon inspection the vessel was found to contain five kids who, by the end of episode one, had started dying from pneumonic plague. By episode two, a quartet of young terrorists in animal masks were claiming responsibility and vowing to carry on killing as a protest against globalised farming methods. Their stated aim is to get people to support local farmers.
Their genocidal methods for publicising a relatively blameless ideological stance seem somewhat overblown, but then The Bridge goes big on supervillains with grandiose delusions. (So did The Killing III, come to that.) For non-Nordic viewers, the fact of two police forces collaborating across a border has less resonance (unless of course the cops are British and French). What continues to work beautifully is the bridge as a symbol of the thin but strong connection between hyper-organised borderline sociopath Saga and the shambolic but emotionally attuned Martin.
The question for the viewer is whether we’ve a grin as wide as Kim Bodna (wonderful as Martin) to see Saga back. After two hours Sofia Helin’s baffled stares and staccato monosyllables were starting to feel just slightly like hackneyed mannerisms. This may of course change as the plot – which involves school kids at both ends of the bridge – starts to thicken.
We have all learned to genuflect at the altar of Nordic noir in recent years – see The Tunnel, the Anglo-French remake of The Bridge, and the American Killing, not to mention the news that Borgen creator Adam Price and Michael House of Cards Dobbs are to collaborate. But the traffic is not entirely one-way. One series purchased by the Danish broadcaster DR is Hinterland (****), an intriguing and impeccably sullen crime series from Welsh-language broadcaster S4C. Its drama department is better known for the long-running soap Pobol y Cwm, but this is an altogether harder-hitting snapshot of rural Wales.
Set in and around Aberystwyth, Hinterland is that rarity in British television, a genuinely bilingual production, in that it was shot twice - in Welsh and then English. The Welsh version known as Y Gwyll was shown on S4C in the autumn. The English-language edition is due on BBC Four but is currently running on BBC One Wales, and is viewable on BBC iPlayer.
All four episodes riff on an old Welsh legend. The first, "Devil’s Bridge", takes the story of the canny old woman who tricked the devil at the scene of the famous old bridge spanning a dramatic waterfall in mid-Wales. In the present day, the hotel which overlooks the falls is a former home for children and the receptacle for some grim memories which the police investigate when the body of an old woman is found in a pool of blood. Richard Harrington (pictured above) plays DCI Tom Mathias, freshly transferred from the big smoke to get away - yes - from his bungled marriage, and teams up with DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries). The landscapes are grimly wintry, as are the faces of everyone involved in this dark dark show. The Welsh tourist board can take comfort that Nordic noir has done wonders for visitor numbers in Denmark.
- 'It became two shows': watch Richard Harrington and Mali Harries talk about shooting in two languages
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Ray Winstone surprises as concerned grandad - but old habits die hard
The acclaimed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks has died aged 82
24 hours in the king of Pop Art's shoes
Panorama of Pop art from Alastair Sooke ahead of the Tate Modern show
Cogent narrative of the pioneering achievements of ancient Athens
Notes on an 18th-century scandal, with visuals dominating over character
Attempt to turn tweets into telly had too much to live up to
Charles Manson and the squalid underbelly of the hippie dream
Details of the Manhattan Project abound, to the exclusion of its wider implications
A bleak vision of a haunted dystopia in a brand new light entertainment show
Historian's voyage around the Himalyan prince creates disorientation
From cloakroom attendant at The Cavern club to national treasure